Lincoln's Legal Justification

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    Part way through the course and really enjoying it, thanks.

    Firstly, it’s clear that Lincoln did not believe the South had the right to unilaterally secede. So there was no question of his seeking Congressional approval for an invasion – to do so would implicitly recognise that secession had occurred.

    So Lincoln was left with rebellion. As was pointed out in the lecture, Article IV, Section 4 requires the invitation of a State’s legislature (or executive if the former cannot convene) before the federal government can send in the troops.

    Predicated in the wording of the constitution is that ‘rebellion’ (or ‘domestic violence,’ as it says) is when some people or part of a State launch an insurrection. It appears as though the constitution makes no provision for when a State itself engages in ‘rebellion’.

    My question is, what recourse would the Framers have had for such a scenario? Would the clause pertaining to ‘invasion’ in Article IV include one State attacking another?

    It seems as though the doctrine of State sovereignty rules-out the very idea of a State entering into rebellion – so long as they don’t invade another State they are free to leave.

    If the constitution makes no provision whatsoever for a military response to peaceful secession by the federal government, then the legal basis for Lincoln’s invasion is utterly untenable.


    You are correct. The Southern States seceded through popularly elected conventions which voted in greater majorities than those which ratified the Constitution. And because sovereignty cannot be divided, the States, or the people thereof, have the ability to leave a compact.

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